DMC Selected as National "Pioneer" in Medicare's Innovative New "Accountable Care" Health Initiative

Dec 19, 2011, 13:05 ET from Detroit Medical Center

One of Only 32 Medical Organizations Chosen Nationwide, Detroit-Based Hospital Group Will Help Lead Trailblazing Effort to Greatly Improve Medical Care for Older Patients

DETROIT, Dec. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Detroit Medical Center (DMC) has been chosen to participate in the early phase of an innovative new Medicare-operated "Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model" aimed at transforming health care for older patients.

The selection of the DMC as one of only 32 U.S. medical organizations that will participate in the nationwide Pioneer ACO Model – the first phase of a comprehensive new system for better coordinating and thus improving medical care among doctors treating Medicare recipients – was announced today.

Launched only a few months ago as part of Medicare's ongoing "Three-Part" mission to improve health care for both individual patients and patient populations (while also reducing per-capita costs), the Pioneer ACO Model was designed as a key first step in providing better care for the nearly 75 million "baby boomers" who will be joining the ranks of Medicare recipients in the years ahead.

Known formally as the "Michigan Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model," the DMC-based organization will include more than 200 primary care and specialist physicians who currently provide health care services to Medicare patients through the DMC.  Their ranks will be made up of doctors who are directly employed by the DMC or Wayne State University, as well as private physicians who contract with the DMC for their services.    

"This exciting new Medicare program is a major step forward in achieving better care for the nation's older medical patients," said DMC President and CEO Michael Duggan.  "To have been selected as one of the 32 U.S. medical organizations that will be serving as pioneers in the program is very encouraging for all of us at the DMC – because finding ways to improve patient services of all kinds has always been our primary mission.

"The DMC has long been a national leader in developing new methods to improve patient care, and we're very excited about this latest opportunity to provide additional leadership in achieving that urgent goal."

Authorized by the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Pioneer ACO Model was created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  The specific provisions of the program were formulated by the CMS Innovation Center, which was charged with finding ways to better coordinate the care of Medicare patients via more effective sharing of medical information among their treating physicians. 

Recent medical studies have shown conclusively that such improved coordination and information sharing among physicians who treat Medicare patients can be expected to focus treatment much more effectively... by allowing the clinicians to avoid "fragmentation of care" and thus develop more comprehensive treatment plans, while also avoiding needless paperwork and unnecessary duplication of lab and imaging tests.

Although the program calls for increased sharing of patient information among doctors who treat Medicare participants, CMS administrators have been careful to point out that participation will be strictly voluntary – and that neither medical privacy nor freedom to choose doctors will be in any way affected when a patient opts to join an ACO.

"The Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model is going to improve medical services for Medicare patients everywhere," said Michigan Pioneer ACO Model President Carrie Harris-Muller.  "But one thing it won't do is change the way Medicare patients choose their doctors.  Participation will be purely voluntary, and they will still be able to consult with the doctors of their choosing, whenever and wherever they wish.

"Participating patients will see no changes at all in their Medicare benefits, and they will keep their freedom to see any Medicare provider they like."

Describing the new ACO Model, Harris-Muller predicted that it would provide Medicare patients with "higher-quality and more seamless care," while encouraging "better integration" among participating Medicare providers who will henceforth be treating their patients on an "accountable track".

The overriding goal, she said, is to "eliminate the fragmentation of care among Medicare providers" which can reduce the effectiveness of treatment.  A key step in the process, she suggested, will be to encourage physicians who treat Medicare patients to "share information better, in order to achieve more effective coordination of care."

To accomplish that goal, the Pioneer ACO Model will require participating Medicare health providers to implement electronic medical recordkeeping (EMR) systems by the end of 2012.  "This is an area where the DMC has long been a national leader," said Harris-Muller, while pointing out that the Detroit-area hospital group was among the first in the nation to go almost entirely "paperless," after a decade-long effort to convert to EMR was successfully completed in 2008.

"The DMC was among the initial one percent of U.S. hospitals to successfully implement EMR," said Harris-Muller, "and that kind of leadership will certainly stand the DMC in good stead, as their providers work with the Pioneer ACO Model to help improve information-sharing for Medicare patients all across America."

The Pioneer ACO Model officially began last May, when EMS publicly released a Request for Applications (RFA) to more than 4,000 hospitals and other clinical care facilities.  About 100 of the eligible facilities chose to complete the 60-plus-page application, and the 32 participants in the new Pioneer Model were selected from this group.

Reflecting on the goals of the new Medicare initiative, which will begin its formal operations early next year, Michigan Pioneer ACO Model chair Mohamed Siddique, M.D., said that it represents "a significant opportunity to improve care for millions of Medicare patients in Michigan and the rest of the country.

"The good news for Medicare patients is that the program is entirely voluntary," said Dr. Siddique.  "It won't change the Medicare benefits they receive in any way, and it won't affect their freedom to see any Medicare provider they wish to see.

"What it will do, however, is to help the primary care providers and the specialists who serve these older patients to coordinate their care... through more effective sharing of patient information and better coordination of important medical tools such as prescriptions and lab tests and x-rays.      

"The result will be enhanced care for millions of Medicare recipients – and that's a win-win outcome for patients and care providers alike!"

Physicians are available for interviews.

About Detroit Medical Center
The Detroit Medical Center includes DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan, DMC Detroit Receiving Hospital, DMC Harper University Hospital, DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital, DMC Hutzel Women's Hospital, DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital, DMC Surgery Hospital, and DMC Cardiovascular Institute. The Detroit Medical Center is a leading regional healthcare system with a mission of excellence in clinical care, research and medical education.

SOURCE Detroit Medical Center